(NationalUSNews.com) — At the Consumer Reports Auto Test Center last year, electric vehicles (EVs) were exhaustively tested for charging efficiency and range consistency. They discovered what many EV owners are finding out for themselves in the real world: they lose efficiency in cold weather. In Chicago, Illinois, the freezing weather is making it harder for people to charge their EVs. Tesla’s manual even warns owners to drive their cars for 30-45 minutes before charging them so as to adequately warm the battery, which will help it charge more effectively.
While that sounds like great advice, many electric car drivers are finding their vehicles’ batteries have drained completely overnight, meaning they can’t drive it to a charging station at all. Scott Case, co-founder and CEO of battery research firm Recurrent, compares the situation to going skiing and finding that your iPhone has drained completely by midday when in normal circumstances the charge would have lasted all day. Recurrent’s research found that below-freezing temperatures reduced the driving range of 18 different EV models by up to 30%.
With new subsidies encouraging consumers to purchase electric vehicles in recent years, many owners are experiencing their first winter with them, and many more seasoned electric car enthusiasts are sharing their favorite charging stations with far more people. Tesla driver Brandon Welbourne of the Evergreen Park area of Chicago commented that charging at the one charger available in his area has gone from taking 45 minutes to taking 2 hours. He added that he had personally seen at least 10 electric vehicles towed after the long wait, coupled with using the heat to keep the drivers and passengers from freezing and draining their batteries.
Tesla’s website warns consumers that they should expect higher energy consumption from their vehicles in cold temperatures. They also suggest people make sure to keep their batteries charged above 20% in harsh winter weather. The Eastern Michigan Electric Vehicle Association’s president, Bruce Westlake, suggests this is just part of learning about your electric vehicle. He added that he doesn’t think Tesla is very good at explaining some of the pitfalls and precautions. He then emphasized the importance of “preconditioning” your EV’s batteries, as warming them up will ultimately make them take a charge and hold a charge more effectively.
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